Wednesday, November 14, 2007
This article is about the tournaments of the Middle Ages. For the general article on tournaments, see tournament. See also jousting and mêlée
A Tournament, or tourney (from Old French torneiement, tornei) is the name popularly given to chivalrous competitions or mock fights of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (12th to 16th centuries). It is one of various types of hastiludes.
Men who carry weapons have in all ages played at the game of war in time of peace. Military games were organized in Europe from the dawn of time. Equestrian games of war are known from before the Romans: chariot racing and the like were popular in Celtic Europe for example. Something like the medieval tourney was practiced by the Roman cavalry, from early on a critically important arm of the legions: two teams took turns chasing and fleeing each other, casting javelins in the attack and covering themselves with their shields in the retreat. These games, known as Hippica Gymnasia are known from ample archaeological and literary evidence to have been quite elaborate displays and were intended to impress their audiences. Special armour was made for them, including helms that fully covered the face against accidental injury, unlike the war helmets that left the face open for unimpeded vision and hearing. During the Early Middle Ages such cavalry games were still central to military training as is evidenced by Louis and Charles' military games at Worms in 843. At this event, recorded by Nithard, the initial chasing and fleeing was followed by a general melee of all combatants. But the tournament, properly so called, does not appear in Europe before the 11th century. Medieval people themselves devised myths about its origins. A chronicler of Tours in the late twelfth century records the death, in 1066, of an Angevin baron named Geoffroi de Preulli, who supposedly "devised (invenit) tournaments." Rüxner's sixteenth-century Thurnierbuch details the supposed tournament laws of Henry the Fowler (king of Germany, 919-936).
In fact the earliest use of the word 'tournament' comes from the peace legislation by Count Baldwin III of Hainaut for the town of Valenciennes, dated to 1114. It refers to the keepers of the peace in the town leaving it 'for the purpose of frequenting javelin sports , tournaments and such like.' The earliest reference to a recognisable tournament event is in the history of his church of St Martin of Tournai composed by Hermann of Tournai in the early 1140s, who refers to the accidental death of Count Henry III of Brabant in his town in 1095 in a meeting between his knights and those of the castellan of Tournai. A pattern of regular tournament meetings across northern France is evident in sources for the life of Count Charles of Flanders (1119-1127). The sources of the 1160s and 1170s portray the event in the developed form it maintained into the fourteenth century.
Tournaments centred around the mêlée, a general fight where the knights were divided into two sides and came together in a charge (MFr 'estor'). Jousting, a single combat of two knights riding at each other, was a component of the tournament, but was never its main feature.
The standard form of a tournament is evident in sources as early as the 1160s and 1170s, notably the Life of William Marshal and the romances of Chrétien de Troyes. Tournaments might be held at all times of the year except the penitential season of Lent (the forty days preceding the Triduum of Easter). The general custom was to hold them on Mondays and Tuesdays, though any day but Friday and Sunday might be used. The site of the tournament was customarily announced a fortnight before it was to be held. The most famous tournament fields were in northeastern France (such as that between Ressons-sur-Matz and Gournay-sur-Aronde near Compiègne, in use between the 1160s and 1240s) which attracted hundreds of foreign knights from all over Europe for the 'lonc sejor' (the tournament season).
Knights arrived individually or in companies to stay at one or other of the two settlements designated as their lodgings. The tournament began on a field outside the principal settlement, where stands were erected for spectators. On the day of the tournament one side was formed of those 'within' the principal settlement, and another of those 'outside'.
The evening before the event parties hosted by the principal magnates present were held in both settlements, and preliminary jousts (called the 'vespers' or premieres commençailles) offered knights an individual showcase for their talents. On the day of the event, the tournament was opened by a review (regars) in which both sides paraded and called out their war cries. Then followed a further opportunity for individual jousting carried out between the rencs, the two line of knights. The opportunity for jousting at this point was customarily offered to the new, young knights present.
At some time in mid morning the knights would line up for the charge (estor). At a signal, a bugle or herald's cry, the lines would ride at each other and meet with levelled lances. Those remaining on horseback would turn quickly (the action which gave the tournament its name) and single out knights to attack. There is evidence that squires were present at the lists (the staked and embanked line in front of the stands) to offer their masters up to three replacement lances. The mêlée would tend then to degenerate into running battles between parties of knights seeking to take ransoms, and would spread over several square miles between the two settlements which defined the tournament area. Most tournaments continued till both sides were exhausted, or till the light faded. A few ended earlier, if one side broke in the charge, panicked and ran for its home base looking to get behind its lists and the shelter of the armed infantry which protected them. Following the tournament the patron of the day would offer lavish banquets and entertainments. Prizes were offered to the best knight on either side, and awarded during the meals.
Popularity and Prohibitions
There was a family of events which resembled the tournament in their day, and which are often confused with it. The most common was the bohort (buhurdicium). This was a play tournament, which might be held informally on a variety of occasions. There is a record of one being held regularly by the youth of the city of London in the life of Thomas Becket by William fitz Stephen (composed 1171). Bohorts might be held between travelling knights, or between parties of squires, or within an encamped army. They might also form part of court festivities. Their main feature was the limited use of arms and armour and emphasis on horsemanship.
The tirocinium is first mentioned by Otto of Freising, referring back to an event at Würzburg in 1127. That and later references indicate that it was a tournament held exclusively for newly-knighted youths (tirones). The new knight was often an easy victim for older and more experienced colleagues. The tirocinium allowed them to gain experience with less danger. Tirocinia were often held following the knighting of royal and princely youths, who were usually knighted in company with dozens or scores of other aspirants.
A further addition to the family of related events was the urban tournament, designed for the youths and young men of wealthy patrician families. These were facsimiles of the aristocratic event rather than simple bohorts. The most famous of them were the tournaments held in the market streets of the great Flemish cities, notably at the religious feast of the Epinette, which is mentioned at Lille as early as 1283. They were not exclusively urban, and attracted neighbouring country knights, but their location and patronage distinguished them from the parallel aristocratic events. This form of mêlée tournament survived the longest.
Bohorts, Tirocinia and Urban Festivities
As has been said jousting formed part of the tournament event from as early a time as it can be observed. It was an evening prelude to the big day, and was also a preliminary to the grand charge on the day itself. In the 12th century jousting was occasionally banned in tournaments. The reasons given are that it distracted knights from the main event, and allowed a form of cheating. Count Philip of Flanders made a practice in the 1160s of turning up armed with his retinue to the preliminary jousts, and then declining to join the mêlée until the knights were exhausted and ransoms could be swept up.
But jousting had its own devoted constituency by the early 13th century, and in the 1220s it began to have its own exclusive events outside the tournament. The biographer of William Marshal observed c.1224 that in his day noblemen were more interested in jousting than tourneying. In 1223 we have the first mention of an exclusively jousting event, the 'Round Table' held in Cyprus by John d'Ibelin, lord of Beirut. Round Tables were a 13th-century enthusiasm and can be reconstructed to have been an elimination jousting event. They were held for knights and squires alike. Other forms of jousting also arose during the century, and by the 14th century the joust was poised to take over the vacancy in aristocratic amusement caused by the decline of the tournament.
Jousting and the Tournament
It is a vexed issue as to what extent specialised arms and armour were used in mêlée tournaments. A further question that might be raised is to what extent the military equipment of knights and their horses in the 12th and 13th centuries was devised to meet the perils and demands of tournaments, rather than warfare. It is however clear from the sources that the weapons used in tournaments were initially the same as those used in war. It is not by any means certain that swords were blunted for most of the history of the tournament. This must have changed by the mid 13th century, at least in jousting encounters. There is a passing reference to a special spear for use in jousting in the Prose Lancelot (c.1220). In the 1252 jousting at Walden, the lances used had 'sokets', curved ring-like punches instead of points. The Statute of Arms of Edward I of England of 1292 says that blunted knives and swords should be used in tournaments, which rather hints that their use had not been general until then.
The decline of the tournament was not a straightforward process. Tourneying continued to be regarded as the best test of a warrior in 14th-century society, an idea reinforced by the prominent place that tourneying occupied in popular Arthurian romance literature. The tournament had a resurgence of popularity in England in the reign of the martial and crusading king, Edward I (1272-1307) and under his grandson, Edward III (1327-1377), yet nonetheless the tournament died out in the latter's reign. Edward III encouraged the move towards pageantry and a predominance of jousting in his sponsored events. In the last tournament held in England in 1342 at Dunstable, the mêlée was postponed so long by jousting that the sun was sinking by the time the lines charged. The tournament survived little longer in France. The last known to be held was at Bruges in 1379. That same year the citizens of Ghent rioted when the count of Flanders announced a tournament to be held at their city. The cause of their discontent was the associated expense for them.
Posted by gigihong07 at 9:53 AM